Your muse is live in the city and the bush

The Diary of a Golden Child

Charlotte was a much longed-for baby. I had waited five years into my marriage before I conceived. The experience of being pregnant, of giving birth, and of holding her in my arms eclipsed everything that had gone before.

November 1979: I felt the first flutterings yesterday, like a tiny sea-horse gently weaving its way deep inside my belly. I am seventeen and a half weeks. I was very tired last night, having made a big effort, washing and ironing all the baby clothes. I lay on the bed exhausted and felt the baby kick for the first time. Strange and marvelous, this living form moving inside my flesh. It has been signaling to me ever since, getting ever more strenuous. I sing to it through the walls of my body.

May 1980: I’d secretly wanted a girl and it was as if God had heard my silent wish. She’d come to me in my late thirties, drawn by an invisible pull: Charlotte. She looks like a wise teddy with puffed eyes and a round face. We call her ‘Our Cuddly Bear’. I have put her in hospital nighties because they are so comfortable. Mum is horrified and wants me to dress her up for visitors to see. She latches onto my nipple quickly and I realize that she has a strong grip on life.

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I can’t believe she is really mine. I sing ‘Don’t Break My Heart in Two’, just as I did when she was inside me. She is so relaxed and so fair: an unlikely child for two dark parents. I stare through the bars of the bassinet next to my bed, and adore her. But mostly I pick her up and bring her into bed with me.

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While pregnant, I had read The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, who had lived with the Iraquoi Indians in South America, and noticed that the children there were happy and free of neurosis. I had decided to follow a ‘total access’ policy of child rearing. Charly Bear and I thrived on it.  She was so warm, golden and cuddly and we merged our bodies in symbiotic love.

“Why doesn’t she ever cry?” Mum asked when she visited from the country, “It’s not normal.” I couldn’t explain that it was because I had predicted all her needs. Had I been wrong in not wanting her to cry? Mum had breast-fed each of her five babies, for two or three weeks. I had loved breast-feeding, and allowed it until she was two years old.

I was proud of her Snow White looks, the fair hair and blue eyes, a golden halo around her. “She’s a good looker”, the doctor on duty had said that first morning. I knew that I had given birth to the most beautiful baby on earth.

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Fast forward May 1999. Charlotte sits perched on the new navy lounge, painting her toenails pink. The acrid smell of fumes invades the lounge room and my senses, and I wish silently that she could move out.
“Careful it doesn’t get onto the fabric,” I say, treading on eggshells.

Charly moans, but continues to do it. One day in calmer times, Charly and I had found this run-down, post war timber cottage that sits on a hill and looks out over a tree-filled basin. Matthew had agreed that the view was too good to pass up. Eucalyptus trees, Mediterranean pines and a Bangalow palm, co-exist beneath a vaulted sky, across which planes and birds fly, as if projected on a screen.

“Could you do it in your room?”  I ask. She moans again: “Look, I’ve nearly finished.”

I want to scream at her to get out, but I hold it in. I dare not push her … tread lightly now, afraid of the terrible tantrums that have come on fifteen years too late. I blame myself for spoiling her. Children like to have guidelines and to know boundaries.

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I think, as I look at my golden daughter, that she should have been born in the Northern hemisphere, not to an Aussie couple in a temperate beach side town. One day in calmer times, Charly and I had found this run-down, post war fibro-and-timber cottage that sits on a hill and looks out over a tree-filled basin.  Eucalypts, mediterranean pines and bangalow palms, co-exist beneath a vaulted sky across which planes and birds fly as if projected on a screen.

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26th April, 2003: She is lying on the cold floor of the bathroom, stinking of stale alcohol and bad breath. The words ‘fuck you’ spat forth at me with such venom that I shudder in every cell of my body; only a few hours before she had been telling me how much she loved me and that she could not go on without me. The hair dryer is already attached to the bath in readiness. I know I should hug her, press her cold flesh to mine, but I feel sick; her smell sickens me. I am afraid of her superhuman strength. I hate the look of her: the way she is writhing out of control, screeching insults and swearing. Hyena-like… not my daughter. There is broken glass everywhere—she has been trying to kill herself with knives and with glass shards. My job is to prevent her, but I feel broken too; one part of me wants to tell her to get fucked; the real part loves her to death and only wants to save her from herself.

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The day of Mum’s death, 19th May 2003,  passed by quickly, being overshadowed by her granddaughter’s hospitalization, the funeral taking place on Charlotte’s 23rd birthday.

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Today Charlotte is an ‘eight’. She slipped a little mid afternoon, but went up again at night. What a relief! The medication is at last starting to take effect. I have only recently begun asking her to give a mood score out of ten, and she was able to respond promptly and easily. The first day she was a ‘four’. Then it rose for short periods to ‘five’, then ‘six’ and yesterday things really started to look up, when it went up to a ‘seven’.  And she has been an ‘eight’ nearly all day today!

On Monday we went through a catharsis. We were all feeling a little depressed. It seemed like Matthew and I were being pulled down into the vortex with her. Her mood had fluctuated during the day, as if trying to find a level.  It was very frustrating. I didn’t know what she wanted or what she would propose next, and I found myself wanting to argue with her and becoming negative. Then suddenly it was as if a heavy stone was lifted and her spirits rose.

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It’s true that love does not falter, but grows even stronger, with altercations.
And I long for the day when I will be able to write the following words in my journal:
She has awoken like Sleeping Beauty from a long deep sleep and opened her beautiful eyes on a new world.

4 Comments

  1. Cath Woodhouse

    Anne, I also love your stories.
    Love to listen to you.
    Cuz Cath.xx?

    • Anne Skyvington

      I’m so pleased to hear from you, Cath. And to know that you liked the story about bipolar illness; and how it is triggered by alcohol. There are two sides to everything in life, aren’t there? Good and bad, dark and light. If one doesn’t recognise this, one is in denial. And we are so “alone” with this knowledge that our ancestors have passed on to us.

  2. dinadavis2015

    Did you write this, Anne, or is it re-posted? Whichever, I found it very powerful as a description of a mother’s suffering. Although we must never forget it’s the daughter whose suffering eclipses all others’.
    (From my hospital bed awaiting possible surgery).

    • Anne Skyvington

      Yes, it’s slightly edited so as not to embarrass! Not many changes from the original.

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